How to Dissolve Clay Soil

Overview

Clay soil can be a challenge in many gardens and lawns due to its inability to absorb water. Clay soil can be easily identified by the way it holds its shape when squeezed. But if you have clay soil, you can "dissolve" or change the structure of your soil into rich, black, organic hummus by adding organic amendments.

Step 1

Take a soil sample for soil analysis. To do this, dig a teaspoon of soil from the surface of your plot of land. Place this teaspoon of soil in a jar. Dig down 3 inches and take another teaspoon of soil. Place this soil in the jar. Seal the jar's lid and label the jar with the location of your soil sample. Repeat this process in several locations on your property.

Step 2

Bring these soil samples to the local office of your nearest land grant college's community and continuing education extension service. Most of these extension services provide soil analysis. This soil analysis will tell you what amendments your soil needs, and in what quantities.

Step 3

Select soil amendments recommended by the results of the soil analysis. Typical soil amendments for clay soil include organic fertilizers such as compost, peat moss, powdered limestone and gypsum.

Step 4

Measure the soil amendments as prescribed by the soil analysis. The ideal amount of soil amendment is approximately 25 to 50 percent by volume.

Step 5

Till the soil to a depth of 8 inches.

Step 6

Spread a 2-inch layer of soil amendment over the soil with a shovel. Till this amendment into the soil with a tiller.

Step 7

Add a second layer of amendment and till this into the ground. Water the soil to work the amendment into the dirt faster.

Tips and Warnings

  • The opposite of clay soil is sand. However, you should never add sand without adding a mix of other amendments as well. Adding sand-only to clay soil can cause the sand to bond to the clay to make a cement-like soil that will not allow plant roots to grow well.

Things You'll Need

  • Glass jars
  • Marker
  • Teaspoon
  • Tiller
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Peat moss
  • Powdered limestone
  • Gypsum
  • Garden hose

References

  • Bachmans: Working With Clay Soil
  • Fine Gardening: Improving Clay Soils
  • Gardening Know How: Improving Clay Soil in Your Yard

Who Can Help

  • North Carolina University: Amending Clay Soils
Keywords: amending soil, breaking up clay, adding organic fertlizer

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.